People were gripped with wanting to “do something” as the dimension of the losses in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon began to crystallize in the days following the events. My friend, the soul singer G.C. Cameron, former lead singer of the Spinners, had just rejoined his old group after a 30-year separation when the terrorists struck on September 11, 2001.
An ex-Marine and twice-wounded Vietnam veteran, G.C. was convinced he had to perform a song that was calming and healing, and needed to be heard by large numbers of people. He had decided on recording his friend Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as a tribute to the 9-11 victims, and he wanted to do it as fast as possible.
Armed with a limited license to perform the song, G.C. got on the phone with Greg Crockett, a former Motown producer and musician, and told him his idea for a jazzy track with horns, that could reflect what the country was feeling right then.
“What are you looking for?” Crockett asked.
“I don’t know, give me something like Armageddon mixed with hope,” G.C. said in musician-speak.
Two days later, Crockett had come up with the track, and a day later G.C. was laying down the lead vocals and cutting backing tracks, over-dubbing himself like Marvin in a three-hour session in a studio in North Jackson, Miss. That this video exists of his only performance of the song was due to a confluence of fast-moving developments following a national tragedy. The song wasn’t intended to be sold, only performed in a non-commercial venture, to assist in some small way with the national healing.
Fund-raising concerts and telethons to support the victims and their families cropped up around the country, and when a group in Atlanta called “Atlanta Unites,” put out word for entertainers to perform in a concert and telethon broadcast over all of Atlanta’s TV stations, I saw an opportunity. I knew that G.C. would be flying through Atlanta to rejoin the Spinners on the East Coast that weekend. The organizers of “Atlanta Unites” were able work out the logistics.
This seems like the perfect time to hear that song again.